omnichannel retailOne of the biggest business changes wrought by the rise of the Internet is omnichannel retailing – the ability for consumers to make purchases at any time in any place, and then have the product directly delivered to any address in the world.
This creates a major challenge for suppliers who don’t yet have fully operational EDI and automated, real-time processing. Consumers don’t just want products on demand – they also want accurate information concerning product availability, when the product will ship, and when it will arrive. Providing this information requires that the supplier’s ERP and EDI systems are integrated, and that real-time updates flow between EDI systems, the retailer’s ERP, and the customer interface.

EDI providers make much of the technical coordination easier by providing infrastructure that seamlessly connects the supplier’s and retailer’s EDI systems. This, in turn, makes it easier for perfect orders (orders that meet 20 criteria first specified by R. Wang at Constellation research) to be accomplished, with suppliers fully participating in omnichannel orders.

Perfect orders aren’t necessary, most of the time, to satisfy consumers’ needs. But many of the criteria are crucially important. Just as visible, real-time order tracking is vital for omnichannel sales, the same visibility for all orders can work wonders in getting orders perfect (or close to it).

This is where real-time monitoring of EDI documents and processes really shows its value: it enables suppliers and retailers (and consumers, when necessary) to know where the order is, in real time. It also alerts the retailer automatically when some aspect of the order goes awry.

The middleman – the EDI service provider – plays the key role in this process. When trading partners exchange EDI documents, the transfer is managed – and validated – by the service provider. The transactions are compared against predefined business rules, and when the rules are breached, alerts and actions can be triggered to fix the problems, often automatically. In addition, the validation process enables the retailer to take preemptive actions that wouldn’t have been possible in a non-transparent system.

Simply meeting 20 criteria that have traditionally defined “the perfect order” may work most of the time, but even when the process isn’t perfect, customers can still get what they want. Deep visibility, automated auditing, and real-time traffic monitoring make possible orders that are even better than “perfect.”
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